Tom Jackson, a standout linebacker for the Denver Broncos for 14 years, joined ESPN as its NFL studio analyst in 1987 for the launch of the network’s NFL game coverage. Twenty eight years later, Jackson – the 2009 Sports Emmy award recipient in the Outstanding Studio Analyst category – remains one of sports television’s foremost pro football analysts, drawing experience from both his playing career and his nearly three decades in broadcasting.
Jackson has teamed with host Chris Berman since 1987 on Sunday NFL Countdown. ESPN’s weekly Sunday morning pregame show has garnered seven Sports Emmy awards for Outstanding Studio Show – Weekly (1988, 1991, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2003 and 2007 seasons). This dynamic duo also teamed together every Sunday night in the fall from 1987-2005 to host the critically-acclaimed NFL PrimeTime, annually cable television’s highest-rated studio show.
Since 2006, Berman and Jackson have continued to deliver NFL highlights to fans during Sunday editions of SportsCenter (at 7 p.m. with John Saunders and Trent Dilfer and “The Blitz” at 11 p.m. with Cris Carter). Jackson is part of ESPN’s on-site coverage of the Super Bowl each year, and he serves as the on-site analyst for ESPN’s annual coverage of the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio. He also served as an analyst on ABC’s Super Bowl XL pre-game show in 2006.
In recognition of his outstanding career, Jackson became the 14th Broncos player inducted into Denver’s “Ring of Fame” on Oct. 4, 1992. He played in Super Bowls XII and XXI for the Broncos and held Denver team records for most seasons (14) and games played (191) for many years after his retirement until both marks were broken by Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. Jackson retired with 20 career interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns.
Jackson made three appearances in the Pro Bowl (1977-79). He was named by his teammates as Denver’s defensive Most Valuable Player in 1974, 1976-77, and was voted Denver’s Most Inspirational Player (1981-86), the only Broncos player to have won the award at the time of his retirement.
Jackson’s pre-ESPN broadcasting experience included co-host positions for both “Broncos Beat” — a weekly show on KCNC-TV in Denver — and a post-game show on KUSA-TV. He also hosted a daily syndicated sports commentary radio show, “Behind the Line.”
For his broadcasting work, Jackson was awarded the “best sports analyst” Cable Ace in 1996. In 1990, he was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s “Alumnus of the Year.” Jackson also wrote an autobiography, “Blitz.”
A native of Cleveland, Jackson graduated from the University of Louisville in 1973 where he was a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. His number 50 remains one of the honored jerseys in the program’s history. Jackson – along with Muhammad Ali – was also one of the Louisville legends invited to participate in the coin toss at the 2013 BCS Sugar Bowl game when the Cardinals upset highly-ranked Florida.